By Darla DeRuiter
Executive Director, Friends of Plumas Wilderness
This week marks the 116th anniversary of the Antiquities Act, which authorized presidents to protect public lands as national monuments. Have you ever been to a national monument? Do you have thoughts on what one might mean for our area?
The Antiquities Act was first deployed by the great American champion for the outdoors, Republican President Teddy Roosevelt. Since its passage, it has been successfully used by presidents of both parties, including most recently President Trump, to protect public lands.
All told, 18 presidents – nine Democratic and nine Republican – have designated or expanded 158 national monuments across the country.
These include iconic monuments like the Statue of Liberty, Grand Canyon, Giant Sequoia, Muir Woods, Great Sand Dunes, Lassen Peak, Death Valley, and others. National Parks sometimes start out as National Monuments.
National Monuments are also a great way to protect historically and culturally significant landscapes and artifacts for tribal nations, the first stewards of these lands.
Public land protection tools such as this one are a great way to preserve special landscapes for our future generations.
More Protections Needed
For three months now, Friends of Plumas Wilderness has been reaching out to our community to seek input about how to provide greater protections for public land in our own backyard. In a publicly available survey, so far more than 75% of respondents have said they want more lands protected in the Upper Feather River watershed.
The poll, which is still open and can be taken here, asks for input on the values of public lands and waters and levels of support for a range of tools for protection of Forest Service lands.
To celebrate this important anniversary, join us by taking part in the important discussion about how to better protect the Upper Feather River watershed.
Survey results: What do you think about the current levels of protection in the Upper Feather River watershed?
So far, we found that clean water and clear air are really important to people, along with wildlife habitat and improving forest management. It’s clear people feel our forests are not being managed well, when 95% of respondents said improvement is needed here.
At present, approximately 4% of the watershed is permanently protected, compared to 12% nation-wide and 24% in California. On US Forest Service lands, permanent protection can be obtained through Wilderness, Wild & Scenic River, Research Natural Area, or National Monument designation.
Initial Survey Results
Survey results revealed high levels of support for additional Wild & Scenic Rivers, with almost 92% supporting and just over 3% opposing while 5% remained neutral.
Wilderness designation had over 87% support, almost 7% opposition, while close to 6% remained neutral. Almost 80% support additional Research Natural Areas, about 5% opposed, and 15% were neutral.
Finally, almost 71% supported designation of a National Monument, about 8% opposed, and almost 21% were neutral. Perhaps a lack of familiarity with RNAs and National Monument designations lead to high levels of neutral responses.
Survey results: What is your view on these four Forest Service designations?
Understanding RNAs and National Monuments
Research Natural Areas protect smaller areas (avg 2600 acres) of special botanical or geological interest. Their designation maintains a national network of biodiversity and allows for long-term study. A local example is Mt. Pleasant RNA in Bucks Lake Wilderness, protected for the Red Fir and bog-fen found there.
National Monuments can range in size, from just a few acres to millions. When Congress passed the Antiquities Act on June 8, 1906, they created the first national historic preservation policy for the U.S. and ensured that the president can designate national monuments to protect natural, cultural, and historic sites, as well as waters and lands of great scientific value.
In national monuments protecting natural landscapes, public access is maintained and lands and waters are protected for fish and wildlife and future generations. Fuels reduction and forest health work can continue, and fire suppression can occur. Yet the area is protected from future resource exploitation and extraction, such as commercial logging and water development.
Every federal land management agency oversees national monuments, including the US Forest Service.
Share Your Thoughts
All four land protection tools can be used to change the gap in protections in our watershed from the current 4% to something closer to the national or California level. We at Friends of Plumas Wilderness are seeking input and what folks would like to see. If you haven’t taken the survey yet, please do. And tell your family and friends about it!
Over 300 people have completed the survey since March 1st. Nearly 57% are full-time residents, and another 20% are part-timers or have family / friend ties to the area. Visit www.plumaswilderness.org for more information or link to the survey here.
Friends of Plumas Wilderness aims to permanently protect the scenic rivers and rugged canyons of the watershed. Take our survey and let us know what you think!